3D-Printed Paintings Let The Blind “See” Famous Art For The First Time

The Unseen Art project wants blind and visually-impaired people to be able to enjoy classical art in museums and galleries. With 3D-printing and an IndieGoGo fundraiser, their mission could soon be a reality.

Inspired by similar projects, like 3D photos and ultrasound scans, Helsinki-based designer Marc Dillion turned his attention to art.

On a promotional video he says, “Imagine not knowing what Mona Lisa’s smile looks like, or Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Imagine you heard people talking about them and knew they existed, but could never experience them for yourself. […] For the millions of people who are blind, that’s a reality.”

The project uses 3D imaging and sand-based 3D-printing to create high-quality, scale models that can be displayed in museums.

“It would be a revolution to get blind people going to art galleries — people hate them because there is nothing there to touch,” says Marc.

The Unseen Art project is currently raising money to create an online platform for artists to submit work in 3D format, so anyone with a 3D printer can enjoy it.

“We are involving artists from all over the world to re-create classical art paintings in 3D. Sharing the models for free so that they can be 3D printed and experienced both in exhibitions and at people´s homes. A new accessible way to experience art for the blind.”

The estimated number of people visually impaired in the world is 285 million, 39 million blind and 246 million
having low vision; 65 % of people visually impaired and 82% of all blind are 50 years and older.

The number of blind people across the world is set to triple within the next four decades, researchers suggest.

Writing in Lancet Global Health, they predict cases will rise from 36 million to 115 million by 2050, if treatment is not improved by better funding.

Analysis of data from 188 countries suggests there are more than 200 million people with moderate to severe vision impairment.

That figure is expected to rise to more than 550 million by 2050.

“Even mild visual impairment can significantly impact a person’s life,” said lead author Prof Rupert Bourne, from Anglia Ruskin University.

“For example, reducing their independence… as it often means people are barred from driving.” And, from experiencing classical historic art.

To find out more about the Unseen Art project, head to their Facebook page. If you want to donate, you can find their IndieGoGo page.